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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

K M Mani was a colossus in Kerala politics

Mani, who started his career in the Congress, left the party in the 1970s and floated the Kerala Congress with his mentor K M Geroge .

india Updated: Apr 09, 2019 22:57 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thirivananthapuram
K M Mani  Kerala’s longest serving legislator and chairman of Kerala Congress, died on Tuesday.
K M Mani Kerala’s longest serving legislator and chairman of Kerala Congress, died on Tuesday.(HT File Photo)

Kerala’s longest serving legislator and chairman of Kerala Congress, K M Mani (86), died at a private hospital in Kochi on Tuesday. A legislator from Pala constituency in Kottayam district since 1965 he strode like a colossus in state politics for more than five decades.

Popularly known as ‘Mani Sir’ he was an astute politician, troubleshooter and an able administrator. As Kerala’s longest serving law and finance minister, he introduced several welfare measures. Although he wielded enough clout in the Christian heartland of central Kerala he was often ciriticised for his “rubber politics”. A champion of rubber farmers his party, the Kerala Congress, had witnessed maximum splits and mergers since its inception in 1970s.

During the fag end of his career he found himself embroiled in the bar bribery case in 2015 and was forced to quit the Congress government of Oommen Chandy. He later fell out with the Congress saying the party did not defend him well when he was hounded and stormed out of the United Democratic Front. A section of bar owners had alleged that he took money to allot new bars but later cheated them.

The CPI (M) and the BJP then wooed him with an eye on Christian votes. After two years of isolation he came back to the UDF fold again, but only after a deal was struck. His son, Jose K Mani, was made a Rajya Sabha MP after forcing him to quit his Lok Sabha seat from Kottayam. When his rival in the party P J Joseph, also a former minister, tried to manoeuvre himself to get a nomination for the Kottayam seat, K M Mani ensured that it went to his long-time aide Thomas Chazhikkdan.

Mani, who was also a lawyer, started his career in the Congress. But in 1970s he and his mentor K M Geroge fell out with the party saying Christian leaders were not given their due in the party. The two of them later both floated the Kerala Congress, a predominantly Christian party. He enjoyed enough influence among all denominations of the Christian community. Also an author Mani is survived by his wife, four daughters and a son.

State Governor Justice P Sathasviam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijyayan, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and many leaders condoled the veteran’s death. “He was an epitome of courage and confidence. He is a role model for upcoming politicians,” said former CM Oommen Chandy.

First Published: Apr 09, 2019 22:57 IST

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